Wednesday, July 15, 2015

EAPs Can Do More to Protect Workers and Employers Against OSHA Fines Related to Workplace Violence

When you promote your EAP (...and hopefully you are using a monthly newsletter like Frontline Employee EAP Newsletter to do it) be sure to encourage employees who are victims of workplace violence to come to the EAP for support and appropriate assessment. Remind them you are available, and here is why: You can help them deal with the traumatic stress of such incidents. And you can play an intervention role in reducing the likelihood that an employee will quit, take mental health days, or suffer the effects of acute stress in the days or weeks ahead. These reasons are obvious to good core technologists.. but of course the practical reason is to also increase your EAP utilization so you stick around. If you think a managed care 800# will do this sort of thing after you're dumped for low utilization, guess again. So increasing EAP utilization and finding awesome ways to do it that benefit everyone is always a good idea.

Now, let's give you another reason. That is helping the employer not be fined by OSHA for failure to take due care in helping to prevent workplace violence.

Oh yes, when employees get bitten, punched, stabbed, or killed...these incidents must be reported to OSHA. OSHA, then decides to fine the hell out of the employer (or not) based upon whether it discovers a lack of controls, meaning proper safeguards, training, and prevention mechanisms to prevent workplace violence. It's no different than Asbestos.

The EAP can be a canary in a coal mine for the employer and learn about risks directly from injured employees and others, and whether a larger problem of risk to the employer exists that OSHA might possibly discover. In other words, the EAP can help prevent future workplace violence incidents and do the right thing to save the employer's bacon.

Now, EAPs can't tell management how high to jump. But they can create what you have heard me describe in the past as a "Annual Risk Mapping Report". This concept entails a series of recommendations to the employer that gently, and with their invitation please--never send unsolicited--explain what the EAP has discovered in the way of important, addressable risk issues that may prevent loss in the future. No confidential information is divulged, of course. These environmental observations gathered in the course of EAP work.

These risks could be, say, perceived tension between race demographics (black and white employees), untrained supervisors ignorant of employment practices liability and improper behavior, that with education, could reduce risk of an EPL lawsuit to the organization. And, of course, communication about exposures to violence from lack of training and protective measures. Any organization should welcome such a report from the EAP, and when in writing, it becomes important stuff. The report should be written collaboratively so is not an indictment of issues management has ignored. You finesse this sort of thing, but it powerful stuff to advance your program's mission and effectiveness.

For example, here is a press release from OSHA: It describes a company fined by OSHA for employees being harmed because of Workplace Violence, one that did  not have proper safeguards in place.

An active and engaged EAP could have increased the likelihood of a program of intervention being established long before this intervention by OSHA. And the EAP could have saved employees from further injury or harm years (perhaps even death, although that is not an issue in this report) before this employer was fined.

This is how EAPs prove financial cost-benefit and worth. You do not need a research firm in Switzerland being paid $100,000 to do EAP research on cost benefit to quickly the return on an EAP investment with scenarios like this one.